Sunday, bloody Sunday

There was a time when Sunday was the most relaxing day of the week. When ‘morning’ meant a lie-in, the Sunday papers and a leisurely breakfast, and afternoons meant some combination of lunch out, meeting friends and football on the telly.

That was then: no kids. This is now: three kids aged five and under. It makes a world of difference.

Now a lie-in means being allowed to stay in bed beyond 6am. I’m lucky if I read the Sunday paper before next Sunday. (It could be worse: Heather’s lucky if she sees it at all.) Breakfast is eaten separately, at various times between 7:30 and 10am, depending on who’s up when with which combination of children. Most of the day is spent trying to keep three knackered and bored kids entertained without tiring them out even further: this usually entails some combination of divide-and-conquer tactics involving a gentle kick-about with the neighbours’ kids, trips to Costa for babyccinos, Scooby-Doo and other random activities while attempting to catch five minutes here and there of football on the telly.

Some Sundays are easier than others. My parents come up to stay on average every other weekend, which is always a big help and the kids love their grandma and grandpa. On weeks like that I wish – to borrow a song title from Morrissey – that ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’.

But there are other weekends when it’s just the five of us, we’ve had a big day out on the Saturday, the boys are exhausted, Kara has been up three times during the night and Heather and I are both tired, grumpy and with a never-ending to-do list which only ever gets longer. Those weeks it’s more like U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’.

This Sunday should have been one such instance.

Lantern designer
Lantern designer

On Saturday we had done our big trip into London for Chinese New Year, which had left the children happy but also dog-tired. Consequently Sunday became a day of rest, with a minimum of strenuous activity on the menu. And, to be fair to the kids, this was one of their better tired Sundays. You know when it’s going to be a bad one when things start badly, because they only escalate from there. But while Heather took Toby and Kara out to pick up some shopping, I had that rarest of luxuries of spending some quality one-to-one time with Isaac. We sat together at the PC sifting through photos from the previous day and creating montages for him to use to explain about Chinese New Year to his classmates. He diligently decorated and stuck together cardboard Chinese lanterns. And then he made up a card game of his own – logical soul that he is, it had a complex but consistent set of made-up rules to it. It’s at times like that when I watch him creating and talking so proficiently that I realise just how quickly he’s growing up these days. He’s definitely five going on 55.

After the boys’ special treat of hot dogs for lunch, Isaac and Toby had a big mess-making painting session. These generally involve every possible colour paint they can lay their hands on, about ten reams of paper and dirty water flicked everywhere. It’s carnage, which is why it isn’t something we do every week, much though they love it. (Far easier to pay to take them to an organised ‘messy play’ session where they can create havoc to their hearts’ content and it’s left to someone else to clean up.) Isaac is really into space at the moment, so he ended up painting the solar system with great care. Toby’s approach to art is, shall we say, somewhat more free-form.

We'll be tidy - honest, daddy
We’ll be tidy – honest, daddy

I’m still removing paint from the dining room furniture, walls, doors and floor even now. It’ll be at least a couple of weekends before we dare do it again. I bet Rolf Harris and Tony Hart never had problems like this.

Finally, what of Kara? Well, as of the past week, our little girl has suddenly become upwardly mobile. Leave the bottom stair-gate open for a second, and she’s darting straight up the stairs on all fours like Incy Wincy spider up that water-spout. Even though she’s only been doing it for a few days, she’s already far more comfortable and confident than her brothers were at a similar age. I guess that’s partly due to the fact she is noticeably long of body and consequently of limb for her age but there’s no stopping her now, and the loud cackles of laughter that result when she makes it to the top unaided are a guarantee of extended Daddy-cuddles by way of congratulation.

Kara is now upwardly mobile
Kara is now upwardly mobile

So, stressful though Sundays can be at the best of times from a parental point of view – and bed-time was just one big disaster zone of over-tiredness – on reflection this was probably more a Morrissey Sunday than a U2 one. All the kids found something to do to raise a smile both from themselves and their parents. And although there’s no luxury of kicking back with the papers for an hour any more, it doesn’t seem to matter so much when our children are busy creating their own stories for us to remember.